MA60 resumes operations despite failed negotiation with government over funding

    Real Tonga could not be able to convince the government to help fund the Chinese MA60 aircraft so it could return to services but the plane resumed operations and landed safely in Vavaʻu yesterday.

    The national airline’s CEO Tevita Palu has confirmed today his company had received no help from the government but the aircraft was back into the air.

    Palu told Kaniva News he had asked the government for help, but nothing had happened.

    We reported previously the airline needed $TP400,000 to prepare the aircraft for services.

    The aircraft was supposed to be properly certified to meet the requirements of New Zealand and international air safety regulations.

    The MA60 had been grounded after pressure from the New Zealand government after concerns over its safety record.

    It is understood Real Tonga had signed a four-year contract with the Tongan government to operate the 56-seater MA60 aircraft.

    The Civil Aviation Division of Tonga’s Ministry of Infrastructure issued an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for the Chinese-built MA60.

    According to a recent report in the American newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, there has been a pattern of safety problems with the MA60 involving landing-gear malfunctions, braking failures and steering loss.

    One accident involving the aircraft killed 25 people.

    The newspaper said less than half of the 57 MA60s exported from China in the past 11 years were still flying.

    According to the Journal, at least 26 of the aircraft were in storage because of safety concerns, maintenance problems or other performance issues.

    A total of six others had been damaged beyond repair

    Palu told the Journal Chinese Civil aviation authorities had told him the plane was safe.

    He said officials told him accidents involving the MA60 were “only caused by pilot error.”

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